Meth ads left to state; county makes focus local

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey listens as producer Mike Reynolds asks him a question in the Mesa County Commissioners’ hearing room at the old Mesa County Courthouse during the filming of “Crystal Darkness,” a movie on meth prevention. The movie will be shown of Colorado Broadcasters Association affiliates on Jan. 7, 2009, at 6:30 p.m.



With the camera near, the lights hot and a pair of interviewers questioning him, the sheriff of Mesa County sat in his freshly pressed dress uniform in the Mesa County Commission hearing chamber on a recent Thursday morning.

“Hi, I’m Sheriff Stan Hilkey,” he said into the camera.

Tripping over the next phrase, he began again and after several takes, nailed his introduction.

“It’s time we take a stand against this crystal meth. Please join me and my family to watch this historic event. Together we can fight back.”

His words, his presence, his dress and his mannerisms were all part of the new direction the Mesa County Meth Task Force is taking to prevent the spread of the man-made drug methamphetamine.

Hilkey was sitting for an interview that will appear in a 30-minute televised documentary, “Crystal Darkness,” that will air locally Jan. 7 on KREX and KJCT. The show will be a product of the statewide nonprofit organization Colorado Drug Endangered Children.

“It’s a first step,” said Jade Thomas, program manager for the organization. “It’s not even close to the answer.”

But it is a part of the answer, and a change in tactics, said Angie Wickersham, coordinator of the Mesa County Meth Task Force.

“We just didn’t really feel like we were ever having success with trying to prevent everyone from using meth through advertising through public-service campaigns,” she said. “Instead of us trying to re-create the wheel in Mesa County, we are really going to get behind what the state is going to do and really focus on local kids. … So if the state can provide that big marketing campaign, then really our efforts are going to focus on kids who need help in our community.”

Children who may need help to stay away from meth rise to the surface in a number of different places, said Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland, who co-chairs the county’s meth task force with Dan Rubinstein, chief deputy district attorney.

It’s not a matter of turning over rocks to find endangered children; there are logical places to look, said Rowland, who also has an appearance in the “Crystal Darkness” film.Children with parents incarcerated or involved with the county’s child protection services, students with truancy problems at school, juveniles with criminal records and children in foster homes are all good places to focus the local efforts against meth, she said.

“We have a captive audience there,” she said.

The county’s meth task force does not want to lose the community’s focus either.

Last year the airwaves were full of ads, produced by the Montana Meth Project, telling people “don’t be like this guy.” This guy was, of course, a meth addict deep in the throes of his addiction. Today, the Summit

View in-patient meth treatment facility, built and managed by the county as an alternative to a new jail pod in 2007, is built and is operating. Lately, though, many of those meth ads on television are gone.

“We have to sustain what we started,” said Joe Higgins, director of Mesa County Partners and a member of the meth task force’s executive committee. “We need to assess what our role is in association with all these other organizations in the community.”

But without the daily media bombardment, some might believe the meth crisis has passed, said Higgins, who also appears in the state’s documentary about methamphetamine, “Crystal Darkness.”

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey agreed.

“There are challenges of keeping people interested in it,” Hilkey said.

Otherwise, he added, “We’ll just kind of slide back into where we were before.”

His appearance in the $145,000 film, which is being paid for by donations and Colorado Drug Endangered

Children, could help keep the community’s guard up, said the film’s producer Michael Reynolds, of Reno, Nev.

A few years ago, the Biggest Little City in the World was facing meth problems similar to Mesa County’s.

Reynolds, as part of a community board organized to stop meth, volunteered to produce 60-second radio and television spots about the problem. Those efforts led to a 30-minute movie, which local television stations agreed to air in the same time block on the same date.

“The community comes together on this in an unbelievable fashion,” Reynolds said.

He’s taken his cameras all over the country to produce local shows on meth.

“Each area is being attacked by this drug in the same manner, but each community is in a different phase of fighting it,” he said. “Mesa County is very ahead of the scale.”


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